(This is a guest post by Scott Cuzzo from The Fermented Evangelist.)
My stomach hurt for 15 years.
About 17 years ago I developed an ulcer. I believe it was caused by excessive use of antibiotics due to frequent sinus infections as well as heavy use of Tylenol to relieve chronic neck pain from a car accident. For 15 years I took ulcer medications like Prilosec to relieve nearly constant stomach pain. And, I took the doctor-prescribed regimen of heavy-duty antibiotics more than once, and my ulcer would not heal. I had 15 years of misery! 15 years of constant pain.
But the cure was just around the corner.
A friend of mine had recently begun making her own sauerkraut to address some of her own digestive problems. She shared with me how to make sauerkraut…it was easy, fun and delicious! And who knew the powerful probiotics that were created through the fermenting process were going to be powerful enough to restore my compromised digestive system to good health again??? After making and consuming my homemade sauerkraut I began to experience real relief from my near constant stomach pain. After a few months, my regular use of Prilosec dwindled and then eventually ceased. I have not taken a pill for stomach pain in two years.
Oh, and did I say that my immune system went from “tin foil” to “cast iron”? It really did. Five years ago I would catch EVERY bug in the office, and it would turn into pneumonia or bronchitis almost every time! It was scary! I’d reached a point where powerful antibiotics were barely able to heal me. It really did begin to scare me. But my regular diet of fermented foods has restored my immune system. I have not caught the office cold or flu when it makes its rounds for a couple of years now. If I do feel like I might be coming down with something, I up my intake of fermented foods and I can feel my body fight off the unwelcome intruders! How cool is that?
It sounds to simple and to easy to be true! Making and eating fermented foods healed my 15 year ulcer! I made sauerkraut. It’s cheap and easy to make. And it’s tastes good. And frankly, I was never a huge fan of store-bought sauerkraut, but homemade is so much better tasting. And most grocery store sauerkraut has been pasteurized, killing the probiotic goodness. And if making sauerkraut does not appeal to you, you can buy probiotic-rich ‘kraut at stores like Whole Foods. Just know that the unrefrigerated jarred sauerkraut that is common in grocery stores has been pasteurized, thus killing the good probiotics. Find the “living sauerkraut” in the refrigerated section, often sold in pouches now. And if you don’t like the taste of sauerkraut there are many other kinds of fermented foods that you can choose from.
Can’t I just take probiotic supplements?? Yes, of course you can. And I did too. But from both my reading, and my personal experience, probiotic supplements are ineffective at actually getting into your system. I took many probiotic supplements, many of them were very expensive, high-quality brands and they did not heal my ulcer. But eating living sauerkraut worked. And you know how cheap cabbage is!
What about yogurt?? Yogurt is good for you, and some kinds do contain living probiotics. But yogurt does not have a diverse array of good bacteria, it is pretty limited. Other fermented foods contain higher quantities and a greater variety of good bacteria for your gut. I think yogurt is good for you, and I ate it regularly, but it wasn’t powerful enough to heal my ulcer and transform my immune system.
Let me explain more.
The experts say that 70-80% of your immune system is in your gut. “Gut flora” is the community of bacteria that resides in our digestive systems. That is a broad spectrum of bacteria that lives inside of us. Antibiotics, stress, alcohol, poor diet, and other factors can compromise the bacteria in our digestive systems. I like to think of our digestive systems as a garden. We want happy, flourishing gardens that are free of weeds. If we neglect our gardens, the weeds, or bad bacteria, can get a foothold. Our gut flora includes h. pylori, the bacteria that is believed to be the cause of most, if not all, ulcers. I believe that we all have h. pylori in our guts, but given a healthy spectrum of gut bacteria, h. pylori is kept in check. When our gut flora is compromised, h. pylori can take over and result in ulcers. Many doctors will prescribe a mix of very powerful antibiotics to try to kill the h. pylori bacteria. And I tried that route a couple of times. But my ulcer always returned. but by simply including sauerkraut in my diet, I “replanted” my gut with a broad spectrum of good and desired bacteria which restored balance and returned my h. pylori back into the corner where it belongs.
And this is where my story with fermented foods began…and now it continues as I strive to share about here, and encourage you to include fermented foods into your diet and see a vast array of health benefits.
I will be back later this week with recipes and techniques to help you explore the world of fermented foods!